Monday, December 22, 2008

Men and the City

By Leeat Granek (Guest voice)

“You have no idea how desirable you are. I want to make love to you.”

These would be lovely, seductive words if murmured from the mouth of a spouse or a lover.

Instead, they were hurled at me by a tall French man in the street. I was schlepping my groceries through the snow when he, and his statements stopped me dead in my tracks. I was not amused.

Is this the way men talk to women these days? What is happening with the men in the city? The French guy was not the only disappointment this week.

Thursday night, I dragged myself out in the cold to attend the third annual Annex Shul Chanukah party in Kensington Market. I begrudgingly paid my $15 entrance fee for the privilege of being surrounded by my choice demographic when it comes to potential mates. Single, young, Jewish, (and hopefully) employed men. What better place for Jews to meet each other than at events like these? Problem is, no one would talk to me. Or rather, I should say, no one knew how to talk to me or to the group of women I was with.

The first set of men to approach my friend and I wouldn’t stop talking about themselves. They literally went on for twenty minutes before even asking our names. We tried desperately to get away, but we had somehow gotten stuck between the jelly doughnuts and the bar. I plotted our escape in my mind, concocting an elaborate break through the coat check and out in to freedom. Luckily, the guys tired themselves out with their chatter.

We made a run for it when they stopped to swig at their beers.
Waiting in line at the bar, we were approached by a new group of men. This time, they asked us our names and what we do for a living. They were attentive enough and seemingly engaged, although one of them kept darting his eyes around and couldn’t maintain eye contact. I’m not sure if he was looking for someone he knew, or if he just wanted to see if he could find someone better looking to talk to. Whatever the reason, it was weird and disconcerting.

Still, it was a major improvement until they asked us to buy them a drink when we got to the bar. “Bartenders always pay close attention to the pretty girls. Can you hook us up?” Needless to say, we were less than thrilled by this proposition.

I was about to give up when I thought maybe I should initiate conversation. I am after all, a feminist. I believe in equality between the sexes. Why should I wait for someone to approach me when I am perfectly capable of making small talk myself? I approached the first cute guy I saw.

I pitched him a compliment to start the conversation. “I love your fedora,” I said in my best, flirty voice. I waited for him to respond with something nice, or at least to make a witty comment, or extract some information. Instead, he grinned and said “Yes, I like it too. It’s great isn’t it?” A real charmer.

I know that it’s hard to be a man these days. It’s confusing. Women can be ambivalent. We send mixed messages. We want our men to be assertive and in control, but also sensitive and attuned. We want our men to initiate, but also leave enough room for us to make some decisions. It's hard to know what to do with all of these contradictions.

Underneath all of these paradoxes, though, the truth is that all of us want the same things. Women want to be respected, honoured and listened to, and I suspect men want to be acknowledged, encouraged, and seen. For men, that means maintaining eye contact, really listening to what your date/wife/girlfriend is saying, and honouring her by treating her with kindness and respect.

It’s easy. Treat her the way you want your sister or mom to be treated and you are on your way to being a real mensch.

What do men want? I open the question to you the readers. Post your response on


Wende said...

I think that the author is correct in her assumption that men just don't know how to be themselves when approaching women. We have all been taught to play games and think that the only way to succeed is to play games. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all just loose the game playing mentality and talk to each other the way we talk to our friends!

H said...

It's such a paradox-- these gatherings are a great place to meet people, but unfortunately, the meat market atmosphere breeds, well, meat market shopping-- browsing the merchandise until you settle on the best bargain. I think because of this, men (and women too) are unwilling to commit to any one person, for fear they're missing out on bargains just around the corner. We're told always to be thorough-- cover all our bases, don't miss anything. But if we stopped and focused long enough, we might realize the very thing we're looking for is right in front of us. Of course, sometimes (as with the men the author unfortunately encountered), the meat is clearly spoiled, in which case, better move on before you get salmonella :)

Pipeline said...

Well, first-off, it's neither here-nor-there, but your last sentence, to post comments as, isn't possible, since that's an unregistered website. I presume you meant this blog.

I don't really have much experience at singles events, not to mention large gatherings of Jews, but I think part of the issue has less to do with how individuals respond, and more to do with how groups do. After all, in theory you're all at this event to pair up, correct? (Whether that's merely to get laid, meet a friend, or find a spouse is another matter.) But it's not like a candlelit dinner with someone you met in the grocery store. It's a group setting, which means not only are you looking at potential mates, but you're looking for the best potential mates, and you're also observing your competition amongst your own sex. There are a lot of weird pressures going on in that kind of environment.

For instance, if I see a group of attractive women standing a at a bar, that creates a completely different dynamic than if I see a single woman. Add to the fact that it's a singles event, and the pressure gets even weirder. And if I'm with a group of male friends, I know that on some unconscious level I want women to find me the most attractive of my group.

As a sidenote, I'm obviously speaking in generalities - men and women certainly view competition for a mate differently, but both sexes generally, whether consciously or unconsciously, feel that sense of competition, especially when you're dealing with a comparatively small pool (only single, attractive, unmarried Jews).

I suppose I'm just ranting here; I have no constructive "solution" to the problem, except to posit that perhaps meeting the Jew of your dreams won't happen at an event like this. Well, and you should have kicked fedora-boy in the shins, 'cause that's just dorky.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll say it (even though I write this just after carefully choosing the 'anonymous' identity from the selection below) Jewish guys are a particularly difficult breed of men. In my experience, and I have had a good amount of this, they are especially arrogant and defensive. Much more than other guys, I have found Jewish guys to be really concerned with appearing not interested and definitely not impressed with the women that they meet. Now us Jewish girls have our own shtick of course...we can have very high expectations and be much more demanding and sensitive than other girls. But I still believe we are the ones with the license to kvetch when confronted with special combination of contempt and insecurity that Jewish guys offer up to us at singles events like the one described here. Guys, if you are reading this...just relax and be real, and for god's sake give us some room to make you smile. We are not as judgemental as you think. We just want some good, honest communication.

littlemisslila said...

Your blogs are so funny! (not the situation - obviously!) I find myself smiling and really thinking...

RK said...

I'm not entirely sure what it is that men (or Jewish men) are after, but I suspect they generally want the package- intelligence, looks, charm and good teeth ;-) And in this, they are not that different from us women. I also suspect that most men are quite insecure at the end of the day, and it isnt always easy approaching a group of girls at a party.

Perhaps its also a question of expectations. So many women expect the begining of a relationship to start out with witty flirtation or a magical encounter...but really, a chance encounter can take place anywhere from the grocery store to an uneventful "Jew-do". And by the way, fedora-boy may have just had a bad, slow day, or maybe he's just shy and not that good at the art of flirting. Yet the author immediately assumed that this meant she should move on...Just consider: maybe meeting the right guy will happen in the most unexpected way- awkwardly, slowly and not so romantically?!

MG said...

Great article. I think that the author is correct in her assessment of what men and women really want. Frustrating when it all sounds so simple and yet so hard to find.